The Fremont community braced for impact on Thursday as river flooding and ice jams led to various flood warnings throughout the day.
Fremont, however, did not face the same battle as many of its surrounding communities.
Several Fremont roads closed on Wednesday due to water over the road including Airport Road from Linden Avenue to 23rd Street. But by Thursday, flooding subsided and the road was re-opened.
Ridge Road and Ridgeland Avenue along the west edge of Fremont from Military Avenue south to Highway 77 were also closed on Wednesday, however, they remained closed throughout the day on Thursday as water and giant ice shards from the Platte River still covered much of the roadway at points near Hormel Park.
U.S. Highway 275 was closed to the north of Fremont at the Nebraska Highway 91 intersection. A stretch of U.S. Highway 30 to the west from Ames to North Bend was also closed at one point and to the east, 30 remained closed Thursday night from the Highway 275 interchange through Arlington to Nebraska Highway 31.
City Administrator Brian Newton said the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plan was running at full capacity but added that he doesn’t expect it to run over.
“What happens is when we get this much water we get infiltration because the ground is so saturated the storm sewer infiltrates into the sanitary sewer and you also get water running into the manholes in the streets,” he said. “So it forces a lot of extra water out to the Wastewater Treatment Plant.”
Newton said that plant supervisor Keith Kontor reported that it was running well and there was no danger of having to bypass water due to the current volume being taken in.
Residents in parts of southeastern Fremont had to deal with a short power outage over the noon hour on Thursday, although it wasn’t caused by flooding.
According to Newton, the short outage was not caused by water or high winds but was instead caused by a trip at the Lon D. Wright Power Plant due to work being done at a substation in the city.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work on one of our substation’s north of Sid Dillon’s and because that substation is down we have the other six kind of picking up the load,” he said. “Because of that our coordination between substations isn’t always the greatest and something tripped on the line, which tripped the power plant.”
Just south of Fremont, in Inglewood, flooding led to the evacuation of residents of Emerson Estates late Wednesday night.
Big Island Road — which runs along the Platte River west of Ridge Road — was also inundated with water and ice chunks throughout the day on Thursday.
Late Thursday morning, the Dodge County Emergency Management Facebook page announced that the Fremont Volunteer Rural Fire Department was ordering a voluntary evacuation order for the Fremont area due to an ice jam break upstream of Fremont on the Platte River that could potentially cause a surge of water of four to five feet.
The notification did not name any specific neighborhood, though Lottie Mitchell with the city of Fremont said that those in rural areas along the Platte River should seek higher ground.
A flash flood emergency was issued by the NWS for areas along the Platte from Schuyler to Ashland that recommended residents along the river seek higher ground due to the potential surge of water. That flash flood emergency was issued at 1:34 p.m. and was later extended until 4:45 p.m. on Thursday.
After several tense hours throughout the afternoon on Thursday word spread that the potential surge of water had passed through the Platte south of Fremont.
Methodist Fremont Health posted on their Facebook page that it had been informed by emergency management that the surge of water passed through Fremont at approximately 4:30 p.m. and it was smaller than initially expected.
Methodist Fremont Health’s Facebook page also sought to clarify false rumors circulating in the community that it was evacuating patients from its facility on 23rd Street.
“Contrary to what you may have heard, at this time, we are not evacuating our patients and residents. We are in a pre-planning stage in the event evacuation is needed,” read Fremont Health’s Facebook post at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Thursday.
However, Methodist Fremont Health did announce it was closing its clinics, canceling outpatient tests and procedures, and suspending bus services for those outpatient tests and services throughout the afternoon.
MFH’s Urgent Care remained open from 5-10 p.m. and its emergency department also remained open for its regularly scheduled 24/7 hours.
A flood warning for Fremont and surrounding areas issued by the National Weather Service remain in effect until Saturday.
Melting ice and rain continued to cause flooding throughout Dodge County and northeast Nebraska on Thursday, leading to road and school closures, power outages as well as several evacuations starting Wednesday night.
Just before 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, the Dodge County Emergency Management Facebook page announced that the Fremont Volunteer Rural Fire Department was ordering a voluntary evacuation order for the Fremont area due to an ice jam break that officials warned could see a potential surge of water on the Platte River of four to five feet. The notification did not name any specific neighborhood, though Lottie Mitchell with the city of Fremont said that those in rural areas along the Platte River should seek higher ground.
The National Weather Service had issued a flash flood emergency for residents along the Platte River from Schuyler to Ashland due to the ice jam.
The North Bend Fire Department also ordered a voluntary evacuation order for the city of North Bend, on the south side of the railroad tracks and Highway 30. And just after 5 p.m., a voluntary evacuation order was given for the residents of Legges Lake.
North Bend Fire Chief and Emergency Manager Waylon Fischer said that, as of 1:30 p.m., there had been about a two-foot rise in the river.
“It has not crested the bank yet,” he said at the time. “We are monitoring it.”
The city of North Bend has designated the North Bend School as an emergency shelter. In Fremont, the American Red Cross opened a shelter at the First Lutheran Church on 3200 Military Avenue to house evacuated or displaced individuals.
In a press release, the Red Cross noted that anyone displaced from their homes should come to the church, bringing each family members prescriptions and emergency medications; food that meet unusual dietary requirements; identification to show residence is in affected area; extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies and other comfort items; supplies for children and infants, like diapers or formula; and special items for elderly or disabled family members.
If choosing to evacuate, the Dodge County Emergency Management Office recommends that you do the following before leaving: Gather all individuals, Gather all pets, gather only essential items, bring essential medications with you, turn off all appliances and lights and lock your home before leaving.
In North Bend, from Wednesday and in the afternoon on Thursday, volunteers were working feverishly to fill thousands of sandbags in preparation of potential flooding. North Bend Central Public Schools Superintendent Dan Endorf praised the community’s volunteer efforts.
“The North Bend community is kicking serious butt,” Endorf said. “Just all able-bodied people are rallying around each other to prepare for the worst but remain in good spirit.”
Deteriorating travel conditions have affected one group of North Bend students — there was a state district speech final at Bancroft High School on Wednesday, and the North Bend speech team sent five competitors. Those students are holed up in a West Point hotel, waiting for travel conditions to improve.
“We’re being cautious and safe because they’re in a location that we know about and it’s warm and dry,” Endorf said.
Elsewhere in the county, the Woodcliff area was evacuated Thursday evening for the third time in 24 hours, according to Cedar Bluffs Fire Chief Rob Benke. Woodcliff resident Lauralee Miller told the Tribune that when she left her home, “the water was up to the road.”
The area had been evacuated late Wednesday night and taken to the Cedar Bluffs auditorium, but when the waters receded Thursday morning, residents were able to return to their homes. However, rising waters forced two more evacuations on Thursday. A flash flood warning remained in effect until 12:45 a.m. Friday at Woodcliff.
Also on Wednesday night, the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department reported that at 2 a.m. on Thursday morning, the community of Emerson Estates evacuated, and on Wednesday, Dodge County Emergency Manager Tom Smith confirmed with the Tribune that Winslow’s fire chief had met with residents and recommended that they consider evacuating.
In nearby Washington County, officials have officially made a disaster declaration, and have issued a mandatory evacuation for the area north of Blair for all residents east of County Road 31; east of County Road P31 to County Road 10; and east of County Road P33 South to County Road 18.
Deputies are going from residence to residence notifying occupants, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
A disaster declaration gives the county access to state resources to help recover from disasters like floods. And while Dodge County has not yet made such a declaration, County Board Chairman Bob Missel said it’s likely that he will.
“There’s probably no question in my mind that we will,” Missel said. “[Emergency Manager] Tom Smith, when he gets the time, and a little recovery here, he’ll have to fill out the paperwork, but it’s clear that there’s no question that there’s a disaster in Dodge County right now.”
He added that the county has plenty of time to make such a declaration.
Meanwhile, Scribner, Snyder and much of the rural area around them lost power for a significant portion of the day, beginning at around noon, according to Scribner City Administrator Elmer Armstrong.
Dick Ray of the Burt County Public Power District said that they’d lost a transmission line, affecting about 500 customers in that part of the county. Crews had difficulties getting across the Elkhorn River to inspect it. Ultimately, they found a broken insulator “just east of town in the flood water.” By the end of the day on Thursday, the cities were back online.
“We can’t fix it, but we were able to switch the load around to isolate that area until the water goes down and then we’ll fix it,” Ray said. “It took quite a while just because of trying to find a way to get there was an issue. But we got all of our customers on and hopefully, it’ll stay that way.”
The Elkhorn River was at Scribner’s flood gates and many of the roads in and out of the city were closed, but Armstrong said that the flood gates were holding up without issue. Firefighters were sandbagging one part of the dike that was “a hair lower” by the Elkhorn River.
“They’re filling up sandbags now by the fire hall, and they’re going to raise that up so it’s all at the same height,” Armstrong said.
Several roads are also closed in the area, according to Nebraska 511, including: U.S. 30 between North Bend and Fremont; U.S. 79 from North Bend to Snyder; U.S. 275 from West Point to Scribner; U.S. 77 from Nickerson to Winslow and from County Road G to U.S. 275; U.S. 91 from Nickerson to Blair; and U.S. 30 from Arlington to Kennard.
To stay up to date on road closures, visit www.511.nebraska.gov or dial 511.
On Wednesday, the county was reporting rough conditions on county roads, with many closings. Smith said yesterday that most roads around Maple Creek and basically anything east of Highway 77 was likely closed or difficult to travel over.
Dodge County’s Assistant Highway Superintendent Jean Andrews said on Thursday that most of the county roads were still closed, and the county had run out of barricades, leaving some townships scrambling to figure out how to notify drivers of closed roads. Some county employees were unable to come into work on Thursday because of the road conditions.
Andrews urged caution.
“If you don’t have to go, stay home,” Andrews said. “There are some places that are open, but you just have to hunt for them.”
The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office reported on Facebook on Thursday that every county road in Nickerson Township was closed, warning residents to avoid traveling in the area.
“Do not try to drive over water-covered roads, at this point we are out of barricades,” read the sheriff’s Facebook post. “Resources are spread very thin do not chance it and get stuck we may not be able to get to you!
The Fremont Area United Way has created a 2-1-1 emergency contact line for those affected by flooding. To be connected to local services in Dodge County, call the Fremont Area United Way office at (402) 721-4157.
The United Way also set up a fund for those affected — call the United Way office or text “FremontUW” to 41444.
Logan View Public Schools, North Bend Central Public Schools, Scribner-Snyder Public Schools and Cedar Bluffs Public Schools were all closed on Thursday as those areas faced poor road conditions due to flooding.
Pebble Creek near Scribner peaked at 30.82 feet at 9:30 Wednesday night according to the National Weather Service. The most recent observed values showed it at 17.77 feet at 3:45 p.m. Thursday. The record of 24.48 feet was set on August 5, 1996.
Maple Creek by Nickerson was last observed to be at 16.78 feet at 4:16 p.m. Thursday.
Logan Creek at Uehling reached 20.5 feet at 9:45 p.m. Wednesday and was last observed at 4:15 p.m. Thursday at 20.08. Flood stage for the creek is 18 feet. The record of 20.86 feet was set Feb. 20, 1997.
The Elkhorn River near Winslow was last observed at just above flood stage at 17.97 feet at 2:45 Thursday morning. It is forecast to reach 22.5 by 1 a.m. Friday morning. The record is 20.4 feet and was set on June 5, 2010. At West Point, the Elkhorn River reached 17.65 feet at 11 p.m. Wednesday night and dropped to 16.63 feet at 2:01 p.m. Thursday. Flood stage there is 12 feet.
The Platte River at North Bend was observed at 9.88 feet at 2:15 p.m. Thursday. Downriver at Leshara, the Platte was observed to be at 7.4 feet at 4:15 p.m. Thursday and is forecast to reach 10.2 feet by 7 p.m. Friday night. Flood stage at both locations is 8 feet.
Wahoo Creek near Ithaca reached 21.52 feet at 5 a.m. Thursday morning, just below moderate flood stage. It is forecast to recede to below flood stage of 19 feet by 1 a.m. Friday. The record of 23.22 feet was set on August 2, 1959.
Jose Santay was sleeping when police came to his door.
It was about 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
The 11-year-old boy learned he and his family were advised to evacuate their home in Inglewood due to rising waters.
“My dad said, ‘Get your stuff ready, because we’re going to the shelter’ and we started to get ready,” the boy said.
Santay said he put his shoes, socks, phone and charger in his book bag. His parents packed other things.
Like about 35 other people, the boy came with his family to First Lutheran Church in Fremont, where a Red Cross shelter was in place. Here, church members, who’ve had Red Cross training sessions, were ready to help the evacuees.
Melting ice and rain has caused flooding throughout Dodge County. The Dodge County Sheriff’s Department posted photographs on Facebook of evacuations of Emerson Estates. After 2 a.m. Thursday, the sheriff’s office reported that Inglewood was under a voluntary evacuation.
The Rev. Marty Tollefson said he got a call at about 1 a.m. Thursday from Region 5-6 Emergency Manager Thomas Smith, saying the church was needed as a shelter.
Tollefson, lead pastor at First Lutheran, said firemen brought some people from Emerson Estates. Other evacuees said they came from Inglewood.
Brenda Raymundo, who lives in Inglewood, said she was frightened when law enforcement officials knocked at her door at 1:30 a.m.
“I was scared that something bad had happened,” she said. “They asked if we would evacuate voluntarily because we could get flooded.”
Inglewood resident Francesca Carreto wondered what was happening when law enforcement knocked on her door and she saw the flashing lights of a patrol car.
Carreto said she was told that snow was melting, waters were rising, rain was coming and she and her family would need to evacuate.
She didn’t know where they would go, but was thankful to hear they could go to the church.
Even so, she and her husband, Joaquin Marcos, wondered whether or not they should leave.
“I got a headache,” Carreto said. “I started praying and asking God what we should do, but I was trusting God that he was protecting our home and our lives. I asked God to guide us.”
Carreto said her mother called.
“You’d better leave if you got notice from the police,” she said.
Her husband agreed so Carreto packed some of her family’s belongings. The family, who includes their children, Joaquin Carlos, 6, and Jannely, 3, headed to the church.
Carreto said they reached the church at about 5:30 a.m. Her husband went to work, but Carreto and her children were among families staying in the church’s mission center, which includes a large gym area.
Raymundo said once she and her children, Caroline, Katherine and Carlos, reached the church at about 4 a.m., they were given a form to fill out and cots on which they could sleep.
“They offered the kids something to eat, water and chips, and they gave us doughnuts and coffee,” Raymundo said.
Fremont’s elementary schools are out for spring break so the children played quietly in the church’s gym on Thursday morning. Some children played with building blocks. A little girl sat at a table, coloring a picture.
Raymundo is concerned about her family’s belongings which are still in their home and doesn’t know how long they’ll be at the church.
“I got worried because of the flood,” Raymundo said. “I am thankful because there is a place where we can be protected.”
Santay also expressed some early apprehension but was making the best of the situation.
“I was scared,” he said. “We came here and signed up and I saw some of my friends, so I played with them.”
As the floodwaters recede in the coming weeks, many Dodge County farmers will be left with a significant amount of work on their hands, says Lon Strand, a supervisor for Dodge County and a farmer, whose 300 acres near Logan Creek were “probably four feet underwater” on Thursday.
“It’s just one more thing that farmers don’t need at this point, with low grain prices and added expenses,” Strand said.
When farmland floods, the first order of the business is the clean up — pulling away all of the trees, debris and anything left behind.
“Whatever came down the river ends up in your fields,” he said.
Additionally, the flooding could change the soil type as new soils from the incoming waters enter the fields. Still, despite the cleanup work, Strand says you won’t see most farmers — particularly those with land near waterways — complaining.
“You have to just plan on that, and that’s part of owning river-bottom ground — it’s just how it is and you don’t really complain about it because it’s your choice to own it,” Strand said.
Strand said he doesn’t anticipate this latest bout of floods to significantly impact the Dodge County agricultural economy. He said it was possible — affected farmers could be stuck with paying another $3 to $4 per acre in clean up — but the flooding had occurred at a somewhat convenient time of year.
“The good news is it’s early enough: You’d way rather have [a flood] now than in June after you’ve planted,” Strand said. “We don’t have a crop in the ground at this point.”
One of the bigger problems longer term could be the road conditions, with most of Dodge County’s roads closed due to flooding over the past few days. Some roads were completely washed away, Strand said, and the county ran out of barricades trying to close them.
“We’re going to see some definite challenges going forward here,” Strand said. “I look forward to a shortage of gravel and rock because this is a statewide thing. This is not just a Dodge County thing. It’s a mess all over.”
Ultimately, Strand says that farmers will survive the aftermath of this week’s flooding.
“Farmers are known for tightening the belt up and doing with what you’ve got,” he said.